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Universal Studios Home Video presents
The Mummy Returns (2001)

"You know, a couple of years ago, this would have seemed really strange to me."
- Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: September 25, 2001

Stars: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, Arnold Vosloo
Other Stars: John Hannah, Oded Fehr, The Rock, Patricia Velasquez, Freddie Boath
Director: Stephen Sommers

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for action adventure and violence
Run Time: 02h:09m:11s
Release Date: October 02, 2001
UPC: 025192110023
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A B+A-A- B

DVD Review

Set ten years after his 1999 blockbuster The Mummy, director-writer Stephen Sommers once again assembles the familiar and likeable cast, as well as a couple of new faces, and attempts to turn up the adventure/action dial a notch or two. Of course, the dreaded curse of the sequel hangs over The Mummy Returns like a pall, and while the story line may be a little on the weak side, Sommers and crew do manage to throw enough visual effects and humor out that the end result is a film that can never be accused of not trying hard enough. Less of a horror film, and more of an Indiana Jones-ish adventure yarn, The Mummy Returns has the benefit of a likeable cast and the carefree unconcern of plot logic to stand in the way of the creation of a wonderfully mindless piece of entertainment.

The film begins with the telling of the ancient legend of The Scorpion King (The Rock), and it is his story that becomes the somewhat vague core of this film's plot. Jump forward to 1933, and we are once again introduced to archeologist Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and Evie (Rachel Weisz), who are now married. Predictably, the two have a spunky 10-year-old named Alex (Freddie Boath). It would be rather confusing to attempt to fully explain Sommers' plot, but he has included everything from reincarnation to pygmy mummies to vast armies of CG warriors to mysterious past lives to the old reliable flesh-eating scarabs in a plot that has the once again revived Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) doing his best to become the leader of the Scorpion King's underworld army. Things don't really have to make too much sense, because Sommers is constantly unleashing big action sequences that act as veils to cover the gaping holes in the plot logic.

I would be the first person to rip this loosely scripted tale if it wasn't such a good time. Sommers' story is not without it's gaping faults, but there is enough energy here for three films, and this is a perfect example of how wild exuberance can win out over a lack of substance. The action scenes are big and elaborate, and they are staged with a complete disregard for anything but propelling the characters into the next adventure sequence. There is plenty of funny dialogue, and while not necessarily realistic, it does compliment things nicely.

I am probably in the minority here, but I like Brendan Fraser as an actor. Even with his stints in the simplistic Dudley Do-Right and George Of The Jungle, Fraser always manages to come across likeable. Gods And Monsters proved to me he could really act, and with his two appearances as Rick O'Connell, he shows that he has what it takes to be an action/adventure lead.

Most of the returning characters look and act as they did the first film, with one exception. One of the differences with this film is that Evie has morphed from a bumbling frump to a weapons-savvy explorer, willing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Rick in the battle against ancient evil. Apparently motherhood has been very good to her in that regard, and I was glad that Sommers chose to revitalize the character of Evie into someone a bit more formidable. If you need proof, check her fight scenes against sultry vixen Anck Su Namun (Patricia Velasquez).

Maybe it's just me, but Sommers' version of Imhotep never seemed like really that much of an evil guy. He's basically got a 3,000 year old crush on Anck Su Namun, and for that I can't blame him. The much ballyhooed inclusion of The Rock as The Scorpion King is a little overstated, considering that he only appears briefly in the film's opening sequence, and then again in a CG-incarnation near the end. He serves as the real evil in this one, not Imhotep, yet The Scorpion King has less than 15 minutes of screen time.

All the flaws aside, I have to confess to enjoying The Mummy Returns. The cast is great and the action sequences are big. There will no doubt be more films in the series, not counting the forthcoming feature The Scorpion King. If Sommers is involved, count me in.

This is fun stuff.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Universal has presented The Mummy Returns in a lush 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. A beautiful source print has resulted in a nearly flawless image transfer. As with Sommers' The Mummy, the color palette tends to lean toward vibrant golds and browns, which are represented wonderfully here. Some of the colors are a bit bright, but in general this transfer looks great. Flesh tones are natural, and don't suffer from any significant over-saturation. The presence of some digital compression artifacts may distract some video purists, but overall this transfer is a visual treat.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchno

Audio Transfer Review: The Mummy Returns is presented by Universal with an excellent English 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. One would eagerly hope that a big budget adventure DVD like this would generate ample audio thrills, and that is exactly what Universal has dished out here. The combination of music, sound effects and dialogue are meshed into a near seamless mix that creates a full and dynamic sound field. Rear channel effects are constant and effective, and serve to completely immerse the viewer in the experience. The use directional imaging is solid, though not as pronounced as I might have expected. No doubt purists will lament the absence of a DTS track.

A French 5.1 surround dub is also provided.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Scorpion King, The Mummy Returns Playstation 2 game
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director/writer Stephen Sommers, executive producer/editor Bob Ducsay
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Visual and Special Effects Formation
  2. Outtakes
  3. Live music video
  4. Egyptology 201
  5. A Special Message From Oded Fehr
Extras Review: The Mummy Returns DVD features a load of supplemental materials. Consider the old adage that more isn't necessarily better, and you will probably understand how that relates to the quality of the extras here. The good stuff is worth it, but there are some "extras" that seem to be nothing more than cheap advertisements. With that said, here's how things break down:

A scene-specific commentary track from director-writer Stephen Sommers and executive producer-editor Bob Ducsay is the best of the extras. As he has shown in the past, Sommers proves himself to be an entertaining commentator, and he exudes the same level of youthful energy that is so prevalent in the film. Sommers and Ducsay together seem to have a great time recalling various production problems and anecdotes, much like they did with the earlier release of The Mummy. If you are a fan of this film, Sommers and Ducsay will not disappoint. Plenty of self-deprecating humor, and virtually no pompous director-speak or awkward silent gaps.

Visual and Special Effects Formation
This is another bright spot, though it is far too brief for my tastes. Narrated by John Berton, the film's special effects supervisor, this segment is broken down into analyzing four visual effects sequences: Imhotep Returns, Pygmy Mummies Attack, Annubis Warriors Rising and Scorpion King Revealed.

Each sequence is further divided into five separate areas of production: Conceptual Stage, Animation Test, Plate Photography, Visual FX Elements and Final Feature Sequence.

Overall, this segment is very informative, but as I mentioned, it is a bit brief, with some of the sub-sections running only a few seconds. However, Berton obviously knows his business, and his comments are technical without coming off as dull. He's a fairly animated guy, and his excitement over the various effects components is contagious.

Outtakes (06m:05s)
Presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, disguised as a trailer, this harmless collection of botched lines and flubbed takes is set to a guitar-heavy instrumental rock score. It's worth it to see Rachel Weisz break into laughter after a particularly grim scene. Even includes some announcer flubs, though I'm suspect as to whether they're legit or not. Entertaining, regardless.

Spotlight On Location (20m:01s)
A slightly puffy promo piece, featuring interviews with Stephen Sommers, John Berton, and the entire cast. Plenty of behind-the-scenes footage mixed in amidst the interviews, and while not overly informative, it does convey what seems to have been a nice camaraderie amongst the cast and crew.

Live music video
A 1.85:1 music video from the band Live, for their song Forever May Not Be Long Enough, which plays over the film's closing credits. This is your basic combination of film footage and the band lipsynching.

Production Notes
A text-based notes segment, combined with 26 photos from the film, as well as a two-page insert foldout booklet.

In addition a beautiful 2.35:1 theatrical trailer for The Mummy Returns, there are also trailers for 2002's The Scorpion King and The Mummy Returns Playstation 2 game.

The Mummy Returns "Chamber of Doom" (3m:06s)
A video walking tour of the Universal Studio theme park attraction.

Egyptology 201
Continuing from the tradition from the first mummy disc, this segment offers more interesting text-based facts on Egyptian history. There are five separate sections here: An In-Depth Look At Mummification, The Most Famous Mummy: King Tut, Animals Of Ancient Egypt, Myth and Magic of Ancient Egypt and The Scorpion King: Myth or Reality?

A Special Message From Oded Fehr (45s)
A public service announcement from Oded Fehr for The Kids Cancer Connection foundation. More of a commercial than an "extra," the message however is important and the cause is just.

Exclusive Conversation With The Rock (3m:41s)
In this happy talk interview, the wrestler The Rock is treated as if he starred in The Mummy Returns, rather than a brief opening sequence, and a CG appearance at the conclusion.

Unlock The Secrets To The Scorpion King
A lackluster set of DVD-ROM only features, including screen savers, and a couple of interactive games.

The Mummy Returns Special Offer
A shameless 1.85:1 commercial for Universal Studios Theme Parks. I missed exactly why it was billed as a "special offer."

More shameless plugs for assorted Universal titles.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

The Mummy Returns, like it's predecessor, is big-budget mindless entertainment that doesn't resort to extreme violence or horror, making it an almost perfect piece of escapism for just about anyone looking for two hours of fun.

Recommended, especially if you enjoyed Sommers' The Mummy.


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